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Japan shares fall from 29-1/2-year peak on renewed virus concern

TOKYO, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Japanese shares closed lower on Monday, slipping from a 29-1/2-year high hit earlier in the session, as concerns about a spike in domestic coronavirus cases and the emergence of a new strain of the virus in Britain weighed on sentiment.

The Nikkei 225 Index ended down 0.18% at 26,714.42, after hitting its highest since April 1991 at the opening bell.

The broader Topix also fell 0.23% to 1,789.05.

New coronavirus infections have been rising to record levels in Tokyo and other major cities.

European countries are blocking travel from Britain after a new strain of coronavirus was identified that is up to 70% more infectious.

Faltering trade negotiations between Britain and the European Union and a rising yen dragging down Japanese exporters also hit sentiment.

The combination of negative factors suggests that Tokyo shares will likely end 2020 on the back foot, after rallying 64% from this year’s lows in March.

“Some investors are worried that stocks have been overbought, so it is tempting to book profits in reaction to negative news about the coronavirus,” said Kiyoshi Ishigane, chief fund manager at Mitsubishi UFJ Kokusai Asset Management.

The top underperformers among the Topix 30 were Honda Motor Co Ltd, down 2.55%, followed by Nintendo Co Ltd , losing 2.20%.

Top gainers were Daikin Industries Ltd and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc up 2.51% and 2.26%, respectively.

Softbank Group rose 1.7% after a media report that the company’s Vision Fund is preparing to raise between $500 million and $600 million via an initial public offering of its first special purpose acquisition company.

There were 75 advancers on the Nikkei index against 147 decliners.

The volume of shares traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s main board was 0.91 billion, compared to the average of 1.34 billion in the past 30 days. (Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Rashmi Aich)

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